Essential Wireless Security- Watch Out for this potential trick

As wireless devices and services become more commonplace, we can also expect hackers and criminals to find new ways to trap us. I’ve read about a certain trick that some people will use to phish for information, and today I managed to catch a screen shot of this trick in action. I’m not saying that this is the trick, but this is certainly something that you should watch out for as you go about looking for a wireless hotspot in order to do your business, check email, check sports scores, or whatever you do.

I had to reboot my laptop at work today. While using Firefox, any time I tried to type, weird things happened. I selected the address bar and began to type an address that began with c, and my Open File window came up. When I typed www, tabs started closing. I realized it was probably time to reboot, so I did.


When my laptop came back up, I saw a balloon informing me that wireless networks were available. I’ve never seen a wireless network here before, so I thought I’d check it out. The network said "Free Internet Access", but I noticed something: this was a computer-to-computer network, rather than a router network as you can see from this screen shot.

This is something that people will do in order to collect data. They may have their own connection through a broadband card from a cellular carrier, and they will open up another connection that broadcasts "Free Wireless Internet". You see that and needing a free wireless internet connection yourself, click on it and find a connection. The only thing is that all of your data is going through their computer, where it can be intercepted. You may be using encryption, but the possibility exists for that encryption to be broken. Your passwords and credit card numbers can be harvested for use.

Stay away from these computer-to-computer "free wireless" access points. You don’t know whether any particular access point is good or not, so why chance it?

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University of Phoenix- The Saga Continues

According to a systemwide email sent out to all UOP students last week, the school will shortly be moving close to if not into the 21st century. They won’t be exactly Web 2.0, but I’m sure we’ll be up to technology from about 2001 or 2002. There will be a new OLS (Online Learning System) that will hopefully be easier to use than Outlook Express or Outlook Web Access.

I just finished up my Web Programming units. I just had ten weeks between two classes of html and JavaScript. I’ll be happy to get back to writing papers. I had a really good instructor, but I seem to be missing a part of my brain that handles code easier. I’m much better of with hardware setup and software configuration than I am with writing code be it C, html, Java, etc. The five week classes that we have are not long enough for me to work with the code well enough to learn it. Once I complete my degree, I hope to go back to the textbooks and slowly work with the examples and exercises to gain a better understanding. In my degree program, I have covered C, Java, html, and JavaScript as well as Unix shell scripting. I’m not proficient in any of them at this point.

Because we get a week off for Memorial Day, I now must turn my attention to another hurdle to graduation: foundational credits. Although a lot of my military training and experience as well as other college courses I’ve taken do count toward credit, I still have to make up for some humanities and health credits. My academic counselor suggested the Analyzing and Interpreting Literature CLEP and the Here’s To Your Health DANTES. I went to Barnes and Noble this past Saturday to look for study guides. From the Analyzing and Interpreting Literature CLEP guide, I don’t believe I have anything to worry about. My wife says that my Bible studying has given me enough of a background for that, plus I’ve always been an avid reader. The study guide didn’t really intimidate me, so I’m not worried at all. The DANTES, however, makes me shudder. I decided that rather than try to gather all of the books in the bibliography (which could take a lot of time and money), I would find a study guide. I found very slim pickings, however. What worries me most is that I could not find very much information at all on what value the few guides available offer. I ended up buying this guide for $34.95, which can be downloaded immediately, so the guide is already on my hard drive (and open in my browser via the Adobe plug-in). I also found this book on, but the reviews made me wary of purchasing it. Most reviewers said that the book was worthless. One said to make sure that you get the Study Guide rather than the Q&A. I could not find any way to verify which if either this book is, so I decided against it.

I could not find any blog entries either. I guess maybe I will be the first blogger to discuss this issue. I guess people finishing up college credit have better things to do than maintain a blog.

One other obstacle to graduation is a core class that somehow did not get scheduled called "Critical Thinking and Computer Logic". I may try to do a guided study for this course. How hard could it be? It’s supposed to be one of the first classes in the program and I’m nearing the end.


How To Post A Message To Univeristy of Phoenix Newsgroups Using Outlook Web Access

This post has specific application for University of Phoenix online or FlexNet students. I’ve written several times about how I dislike having to use Outlook Express for newsgroup access, but the Outlook Web Access is much worse. Today I finally figured out (I’m a little slow) how to work around the biggest problem I’ve had with OWA: getting posts to show up in the newsgroup in the proper thread.

If you’ve used newsgroups before, at least on a newsgroup reader, you know that a discussion thread has a high level post and all of the other posts are threaded through it. I guess you could represent it like this:

My main post
  —first reply

CNET’s Top 5 Crapware

I haven’t written about computers or technology for a while, but CNET gave me the perfect opportunity for a quick entry. Recently, CNET TV had a 2 + minute show about the Top 5 Crapware products. Over the years, many terms have sprung up to differentiate between the categories of software. Freeware is self-explanatory, being software that is free. Wares or warez are pirated or cracked full versions of programs such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop. A lot of software DRM (Digital Rights Management) has been produced to stop warez. Shareware is a type of software that typically allows a trial period before requiring purchase, but encourages you to share or pass along to your friends. Many aspiring programmers get started out with shareware, in fact, Steve Pavlina says that he got his start as a shareware games developer.

Malware is software designed for malicious purposes such as computer viruses, worms, and trojans, named after the Trojan Horse of ancient Greek history or legend. Spyware is designed to spy on you and send back information about your habits or even worse, keystrokes such as login and password information.

Crapware is a category all to itself. I’m sure that somebody has cooked up a wonderful and eloquent definition for crapware, but put simply, crapware is software that is utter crap and chances are you never asked for it in the first place. This includes unwanted browser toolbars and media players that just seem to show up. Some programs try to install trials of partner’s products. Have you ever installed Intuit’s Quicken and found shortcuts all over your desktop for things like Quicken Brokerage, Mastercard, and America Offline? Crapware is not limited to unwanted partner software. Some full version applications by supposedly reputable vendors can fall into this category. I actually consider Symantec’s Norton Internet Security to be complete and total crapware. It bogs down my system, loses my email, blocks programs that I want to access the internet from accessing the internet, can’t do the simplest process like update itself without constantly flashing a window on my taskbar to tell me what file it’s updating, and it starts reminding you that you have to pay for a renewal way too early. I can’t stand it. I also place McAfee’s Internet Security in the crapware category after my last experience with their product. To be fair, it was the version that Comcast provides for free to subscribers, but it was an utter nightmare. It shut down my ability to share files across my home network, my Macs wouldn’t even show up on it’s network map because they didn’t have McAfee installed (and no version was available to install), and I finally uninstalled the darn thing and decided I’d rather run unprotected than completely hindered in my normal activities. I spent 2 days searching for help. McAfee’s website was actually more useless than Microsoft’s (if that’s possible) for finding answers, and even though I had every setting set properly I still could not connect from one computer to the other across my home network or Hamachi.

CNET’s brief video deals with the crapware that computer vendors install on brand new computers. Except for laptops, I’ve always built my own systems, which cuts down on this dramatically. My sister in law lived with some stupid jukebox program that Dell installed on her laptop asking her to buy a music subscription every time she tried to play one of her own songs, until she finally shared that detail with me and I set iTunes to her default player and uninstalled the crappy jukebox software.

If you’ve ever bought a new computer that made you feel like you were living in a commercial after you booted it up, then kick back with a cold drink and watch this video. If you’re thinking about building your own computer, let this inspire you while you wait for me to produce a series of blog posts on building your own computer. It’ll be a while though; I’m still putting most of my time into famiy, church, and and finishing my IT degree.

CNET TV’s Top 5 Crapware


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Should You Really Expect To Get Rich By Winning The Lottery?

At my office, whenever the New Jersey lottery reaches a certain point, many of my co-workers start climbing over each other to pool their money in order to buy tickets. From the Department Head on down, the flames of hope are fanned once again by dreams of riches.

Last year, my wife wanted to take the children to Sesame Place. We stopped at 7/11 to withdraw cash for the day, and I decided to get a bottle of water for the drive. I had to wait for more than 10 minutes at the counter behind a woman purchasing more than $40 in lottery tickets while my wife and kids sat in the car. 

My spam folder on gmail is filled with (aside from Viagra spam and promises of cheap software) notifications that I have won the UK lottery, the Yahoo! lottery, the Microsoft lottery, and so many other lotteries. I recently got a notification that I won a bunch of money for one reason or another from Coca-cola.

What is there about the lottery that keeps people coming back over and over and over again despite the fact that the odds of them winning are actually smaller than the odds of them growing wealthy through their own hard work and creativity? I’ve never really paid much attention to the lottery, even though during my late teen years and early twenties most states began to legalize lotteries. I can remember stories of how the state often got the lottery approved by promising that proceeds would benefit education, while raiding that same educational fund to get the lottery started. While in the Navy, I spent a few months working with a group in Supply led by a Senior Chief (E-8) who read a story about a group of people in the Midwest who all got laid off from their jobs, but won the lottery. He appointed a "Lottery Petty Officer" who had the duty of collecting a dollar every week from each member of the team and buying lottery tickets for us. Obviously, this got us nowhere.

Even before I became a Christian, I was personally opposed to the lottery. Perhaps I have inherited my dad’s cynicism, but I mostly see the lottery as a voluntary tax on people who are either greedy, poor at math, or oblivious to probability. At work, whenever the pot of the New Jersey Lottery gets big enough to attract the attention of my coworkers, I always kid them about lining up to pay tax again. I’ve started telling them that in the time I’ve worked here, they’ve spent enough money in lottery tickets to have funded me in a startup that may have made us all more money by now.

If you want to play the lottery, by all means, go ahead.  Don’t let me stop you.

When I became a Christian, I found a verse that pretty much cinched the lottery for me. I consider this my own conviction; I know Christians who play the lottery and I have once or twice bought my wife a $1 scratch off that looked interesting. I was reading in Exodus about how, when Moses was on the mountain for so long, the people went to Aaron, who made them a golden calf. Aaron said:

Exd 32:4 And he received [them] at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These [be] thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 

God was, understandably, angry with the people. He had delivered them from Egypt, and here they go making an idol and ascribing His miracles to that idol. That’s the meaning of idolatry, by the way, when we try to represent God with am image from His creation and give the credit for His work to that idol. I’m not sure why that jumped out to me, but when I think of the lottery, I think of "Here, O Eric, is the god who will provide for your family". And so, with that thought, I leave the lottery alone. 

Let’s explore a few issues related to the lottery, and why I don’t play the lottery. I would have an easy time writing off people who play the lottery as lazy or full of wishful thinking, but somehow I don’t think that explains it. I had an interesting conversation with one of my coworkers a few weeks ago which inspired this post. I brought up a few points I have picked up over the years about lottery winners, and during the conversation something occurred to me. 

Lottery winners are often unprepared for the immense wealth and popularity they suddenly achieve.

Robert Kyosaki, in his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, mentions that there are things the rich teach their children that the poor and middle class do not. I admit that there are some problems with that book, the most obvious of which is that Mr. Kyosaki tells you just enough to get really excited without actually giving you any substantial information, but that is true for just about all "success literature". One thing that really stood out to me,  however, has to do with mentality. I grew up in an Air Force family. We lived in base housing until I was 11 when we moved to Texas and rented a house. I can remember hearing my mom constantly say "We can’t afford that" when I asked for anything, be it school clothes or a new toy. One thing in Rich Dad, Poor Dad that really jumped out at me is that "I can’t afford this" is the wrong mentality. The proper thought should be "How can I afford this?", or at the very least "Would this be a wise purchase?" (my own thinking). However, having been raised with the "I can’t afford this" mentality, I often simply respond to the thoughts of anything I want or my wife wants with that statement, whether there is any truth to it at all.

I remember as a young, broke sailor, one of the most important things to me was to have my own transportation, and I paid through the nose for it. I had a 1990 Mazda B2200 pickup truck, and the insurance to show for it. At one point, when I was stationed at Great Lakes Naval Training Center outside Chicago, my car insurance was so high that between payment and insurance, I had only enough money each paycheck for a tank of gas a week and toiletries. That was it. If I went anywhere, it was often because somebody else wanted off the base so badly that they were willing to pay my way so I would drive. I remember asking some of the drunks how they could afford to spend so much money on beer every night. One of them gave me the most honest answer possible: "It’s what’s important to us". To me, having that truck and the ability to drive myself off base was important. To them, drinking every night was important. Later on, when I started getting interested in computers, somebody asked me how I could afford to upgrade every couple of months when a new processor came out. My answer? "It’s what’s important to me." Time and money are often spent on what we value whether we realize it or not, which is why (and I’ll get to this later) we should sit down and define what exactly it is that we value. I should do another post on that.

In any case, most lottery winners are ill prepared by upbringing or life experiences to handle the sudden wealth. Some succumb to the constant requests for money, others simply blow it all. Most lottery winners end up worse off after having won than before. Many of their families are torn apart in the process. For once in my life, I decided to perform some brief research for one of my blog posts. Here is a story about 8 lottery winners, and here is an ABC News story Curse of the Lottery Winners. Although these stories may or may not be typical of all lottery winners, they do have a common thread.

What exactly does "rich" mean?

Everybody seems to hate "the rich", and yet that word is often thrown around as an abstract, subjective term. Everybody hates "the rich", yet everybody wants to be "rich". I would like to suggest that what "rich" means may be different to each of us. This comes back to defining values. "Rich" seems to have to do with a large house, fancy cars, lots of toys, and oh, yeah, of course doing something noble like paying off mom and dad’s mortgage or as my wife said the other night while discussing this issue "we could give 20% to the church!" Most of us know, at least on the lowest level that we may never think about, that toys and things never really satisfy us. I could get a brand new Pocket PC tonight, and be mostly bored with it in less than a week, lusting after some newer model. Can you tell me how much money you would need to be "happy"? Now, please don’t get me wrong; I do not believe even as a Christian that we should all sit around in pious misery and poverty. That is not the message of Scripture at all, even though through the centuries it seems to have been believed by many groups. I want to have nice things myself. I’d love to have a larger house, a newer car, a more powerful laptop, a flat screen HDTV. That would be great. None of it would make me happy (for long), but I’d still love to have them.

What are we teaching our children?

While my wife and I were out the other night, I shared with her that I was writing this entry. We got to talking about the lottery. She shared some dreams that she had if she won (although she does honor my request not to spend money on lottery tickets). Her thoughts were pretty much what I said earlier "pay off our house, our parents houses, give 20% to the church…" I asked her "Why does it have to be the lottery though?" What is so great about the lottery? I asked her what message we would be sending to our children to bank our hopes on one lucky ticket. What message would we be sending, by extension, to the children in our church and community? I asked her, what if I wrote a book that became a best seller and we became wealthy that way? What if through hard work and advancement, I was asked to serve on the board of a major corporation? What if I wrote a highly successful software program (unlikely; I don’t like to code)? What if my blog became a successful web destination and brought in plenty of advertising revenue? What if I became a highly successful IT consultant? What’s wrong with us banking our hopes on defining our values and then working toward those values together? To me, that sends a much stronger message to our children. I decided right then and that that I don’t want to win the lottery, so if you are buying tickets, you don’t have to worry about me adding any more odds against you winning it.

So, what does "rich" mean to you?

Before you buy your next lottery ticket, spend some time thinking about what your values are. Be honest with yourself. If your top values is getting drunk every night, then by all means, be true to yourself. But if your top value is something else, and you’re not living up to it, then I’d like to ask you to consider a change in course. This isn’t easy at all to do. I’ve been working on my values for over a decade, since I bought my Franklin Planner and Hyrum Smith’s book The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management back in 1996. There are all kinds of ways to sort out your values. I ultimately found a tool on Franklin Covey’s website useful for defining my values. ThinkTQ has some interesting resources as well. You may try a brainstorming session. I’m sure there are plenty of other resources to help you with this. After you’ve defined your values, then think about where you want to go in life. What is important to you? What do you want to be when you grow up? Begin to set some goals. Is the mansion really what you want in life, or would you like a Victorian style home in a certain city? Would you like to live in the mountains? What
kind of car do you want to drive? Work on your vision. Don’t worry about being "practical" on vision, just see how you want things to end up. Take your time on this because this is important. I have a mind map I’ve been working on for months with my vision. Remember:

Pro 29:18 Where [there is] no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy [is] he.

Once you have your vision, values, and some goals worked out, then get to work on them. Trust me, this will take you much farther than a weekly trip to 7/11 to buy a lottery ticket ever will.

If you’ve read this far and you think I’m full of it, by all means, continue your surfing somewhere else and good luck on your next trip to the lottery ticket selling destination of your choice. If I’ve struck a chord with you, then join me in working to achieve wealth not by random chance, but by God’s grace and our work. Let’s try to add some value to the world rather than fill the world with mindless greed.


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Irony At Its Finest: Hitler Was An Anti-Smoking Nazi

Last night I was watching Cities of the Underworld on the History Channel, when I learned the most ironic piece of information I have ever heard. The episode had to do with the tunnels and bunkers under Berlin, and at one of the commercials, they posted a quick fact that said something to the effect of "Hitler was a committed non-smoker. He offered a gold watch to any of his close associates who were able to quit."

As a former smoker myself, I guess the term "anti-smoking Nazi" is grounded in some historical relevance.